Tropical Storm Harvey breaks record for rainfall on U.S. mainland | 29 Aug 2017 | Tropical Storm Harvey continued to deluge southeast Texas with rain and surging floodwater Tuesday, breaking the record for the most extreme rainfall on the U.S. mainland. Since Harvey made landfall Friday night as a hurricane, some areas of Houston have seen up to 50 inches of rain -- more than they usually receive in a year.
Flashback: The Red Cross's Secret Disaster | 29 Oct 2014 | The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac, leaving behind a trail of unmet needs and acrimony, according to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR. The charity’s shortcomings were detailed in confidential reports and internal emails, as well as accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists.
Flashback: American Red Cross collected $500M in Haiti earthquake donations, built just six homes | 03 June 2015 | The American Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the [January 2010] earthquake in Haiti, nearly half a billion dollars...The Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti.
As Houston is pounded by record level flooding, the worst of humanity has hit the streets looking to take advantage of an already horrific situation. [...]
This paper focuses on the process of workers' self-management brought about by a wave of experimentation with alternative organizational forms taking place in Greece since the beginning of the current financial crisis. The discussion is supported by empirical evidence from qualitative fieldwork conducted in three workers' collectives. Drawing on the findings of my research, I argue that the members' values and everyday practices give shape and meaning to their aspirations of creating a space that not only critiques the existing forms of work but also puts into practice other possibilities that give emphasis to reciprocal relationships and prioritise collective working, egalitarianism and autonomy. I also argue that their established consensus-based decision-making models, far from representing a state of agreement, allows - within collectively determined boundaries -the creation of a space where diverse opinions flourish rather than being suppressed. This encourages the development of more inclusive models of participation and the construction of rule-creating rather than rule-following individuals.
Go to the GEO front pagefile upload: spaces_of_possibilities.pdf
Recently I heard from a reporter writing an article for a major mainstream newspaper who wanted to talk with antifascists. After checking out his Twitter, I decided to give him a shot.
We spent about an hour talking about my work with Oh Shit! What Now? an antifascist anticapitalist educational collective that’s hosted everything from computer security classes to discussions of education reform. I stressed the everyday nature of real antifascist organizing, and emphasized that all of us are involved in other social justice causes.
When the article came out — actually an opinion piece, it turned out — it was a horrorshow of predictable hot takes about antifa that ignored nearly everything I told him, and most of the other constructive work being done by antifascists around the country.
The piece erased all the women, queers, and nonbinary folks I work with every day in my antifascist work by suggesting that “hypermasculine” violence was the main focus of antifa. And he insisted that antifa is completely a spasm of reaction to right wing violence, that there was nothing constructive about it.
And worst of all, we just refuse to listen to Grandpa Noam when he tells us to settle down and talk it out with Nazis.
At least the article didn’t directly conflate antifa with Nazis, though he did skirt awfully close to blaming antifa for the violence of the fascists. And, happily, neither my name nor that of my educational collective were quoted in it.
I’m still frustrated by the piece, and all the other garbage takes on antifascism flooding the slightly center-left media right now. One meme that’s grown especially pernicious recently is the idea that antifa are merely destructive forces, and that we’re off somewhere setting fire to trash cans as the world itself burns — or in this case floods.
But I’m openly antifa, I’m heavily involved in organizing community relief efforts for Harvey and the Houston floods, and I’m far from alone.
My community relief work is happening via Austin Common Ground Relief, inspired by and named with the permission of members of Common Ground Relief, the community aid collective that arose after Hurricane Katrina. Common Ground was founded after Katrina by anarchists & radicals — also openly antifascist — like Malik Rahim, Scott Crow and Lisa Fithian.
Actually though, this is normal. If you look at almost any popular grassroots movement, from the #J20 protests all the way back to Occupy, you’ll find radicals at the heart. We’re experienced organizers. We’re dedicated. We know how to move people and motivate people. We care. So we help out.
Every single antifa I know is involved in a host of social justice & radical equality issues. We’re not just in masks fighting Nazis.
For most antifa today, fighting nazis tends to come out of, and as a consequence of, our other work as activists and organizers. Many of us become antifascist because we see it as the best way to defend the communities we support in our “regular” activism.
So this popular idea that antifa are just picking fights and ignoring the relief efforts is flat wrong and propaganda. Most of the people I know organizing to fight white supremacy, like myself, spent the weekend organizing Harvey relief. And Harvey relief is antifascism in the long view. We’re helping people, connecting people, and showing them alternatives.
One major factor giving rise to fascism is isolation and desperation, which makes folks vulnerable to nazi recruitment. Antifa & radicals like me know that after Harvey we can both save lives and show that mutual aid is stronger than fascism and capitalism.
Even the state admits there is too much work for the social safety net to handle. Now is our chance to show what humans are capable of working together.
Even though we’re not wearing our masks, antifa in Texas are in the streets, saving lives, feeding folks and organizing.
“It’s up to everybody to fight. If you want to live here, you have to stand up for yourself.” — LIAM SHEA (REST IN POWER), FROM 2014 INTERVIEW ABOUT HURRICANE SANDYGonzo Action Tips
Donate locally after disasters, instead of giving to massive NGOs like the Red Cross.
These groups have massive overhead, which takes up most of their donations, and as soon as the next disaster occurs they’re going to pack up and move on before the long term needs of the community are met.
On the other hand, community supported aid can go directly to the people who need it most, bypassing overhead and red tape. While there’s a place for the emergency shelters these organizations provide (however ineptly they may do it at times), there’s no shortage of millions pouring into the Red Cross right now.
Meanwhile, your $50 given to a local organization would be an amazing grocery gift card, perhaps ending up in the hands of an undocumented person whose family is starving, but who is afraid to approach the normal shelters.
It takes a little more work to identify local volunteer efforts and organizations, but in the end your money will be better spent.
To help with Hurricane Harvey, check out “Hurricane Harvey: How to Help” from Traitor Radio, this thread on radical and autonomous relief efforts from Texas NLG, and this fabulous thread on Houston organizations helping after the flooding by Jia Tolentino.
Read the full issue: Gonzo Notes 13.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Eternal Liberal Handwringing: Response to Antifa Smears appeared first on It's Going Down.
It hardly took two weeks for leftists and liberals alike to go from sympathizing with antifa to insist they are destroying the Left and hindering capacities to organize in any meaningful way. I laugh so as not to cry. I guess this should be expected in the era of internet-social-media where information flies so fast that an hour feels like a week, a week like a month and a month like a year but it’s irksome all the same.
Writing for counterpunch.org, Anthony DiMaggio has recently written two essays excoriating antifa actions. These smear pieces from self-styled progressives are status quo but that their source is from a leftist site that should generally be regarded as respectable and reliable is troublesome. This is in contrast to the predictable article by Chris Hedges who has already been called out for similar criticism and whose online publishers are completely negligible from an analytical standpoint.
The following is a response to the former’s most recent article, which serves as a quintessential example of liberal hand-wringing and vapidity. All this is to forget how these wheel-spinning, reactionary criticisms sully and minimize the death of Heather Heyer who courageously stepped out against the far-right for the sake of all of us who would literally be crushed if they had it their way. DiMaggio even goes as far as to denigrate itsgoingdown.org and libcom.org for practicing anonymity. As always, we have to endure a veritable shit storm of bad press, denunciations and idle threats from those who equate anarchy with Hollywood-created dystopias. But hey, we’re all used to it right? And we all know no one is going to stand up for us but ourselves.Anthony,
As an anarchist involved in antifa I felt it necessary to reply to your recent articles, in particular “Trump’s Antifa Moment.” I feel there are some gaps in the essay and there may be some things you’ve not considered. I hope you take the time to read this.
I was most troubled by your criticism of those who wish to remain anonymous, which ranges from online anonymity but translates to people who wear masks at protests. From those who have a vulnerable citizenship status, parolees and people on probation, or the line cook who lied to her boss to get off work so she could attend a protest, some people simply have too much to lose. Some stand to lose everything should they be identified in a protest. Migrants, prisoners, workers and the marginalized are people we want and need for a mass movement so we can’t tell some people that they have to be completely transparent. These are the people we’re fighting for. We are these people! So we don’t want to tell each other who can and can’t fight for themselves. It’s as if saying that taking the streets in protest is a privilege reserved for some but not others.
It seems you’ve made a monolith of antifa and have simplified their actions to black-blocing and street fighting Nazis. We exercise our political agency in so many more ways! In this moment, anti-fascists are providing hurricane relief in Texas right now. We’re also on the border helping refugees survive their long journey north. Building community infrastructure outside the state, prisoner support, permaculture gardens and the list goes on. Antifa is a facet of a larger struggle that we engage in myriad ways.
From what I gather, you’re simultaneously “non-violent” and “pro-democracy.” Quite simply, this is a contradiction in terms. The hierarchies that democracy produce have always been maintained by the implicit threat or explicit use of violence. That’s not to say that demanding more democracy is the same as demanding more violence, but rather that democracy has and will always produce violence through its inclusive structure and concentration of power. I don’t mean to condescend, it’s just an idea I try to put out there for consideration.
You praise the 40,000 strong showing in Boston against Nazi organizing yet refute the idea “that millions, or even tens or hundreds of thousands of antifa activists have been active this year fighting fascists and police forces in the U.S.” Obviously, neither of us can prove any sort of numbers but the 40,000 in Boston was distinctly an anti-fascist action. In essence, that 40,000 was antifa since antifa is more of an action and not the static group that people misunderstand it as. That’s not to mention the hundreds of similar but smaller events held weekly since Trump’s ascension or the Jan 20th inauguration protests where over 200 anti-fascist/anti-capitalist protesters (and any bystander in their vicinity) were arrested and smacked with trumped up charges, which brings us to the next idea.
The crackdown of the police state and paramilitary forces against leftist protesters is already here, Anthony. If we’re to be honest, the most zealous anti-fascists are anarchists, communists, and radical socialists. Those who identify with these and other revolutionary politics have always had a target on their backs, the state repression never went away. You treat increased political repression and state violence as some avoidable scenario in the future when, in reality, for many of us it is part of our everyday lives.
Also expressed is your desire for progressives and the Left to articulate some sort of vision for the future. At this point in time if progressives are still scrambling to piece together some homogeneous, perfectly-articulated vision for what they should do to achieve the kind of society that they want to live in, even though they don’t know what that society looks like, that’s almost pitiable. Almost. “Pitiful” would probably be the more apt term. I can’t speak for all anarchists, and especially not all antifa, but many of us can probably agree that the kind of egalitarian, decentralized society in which we strive for has been succinctly illustrated in Peter Gelderloos’ essay “An Anarchists Solution to Global Warming.” I think many a progressive and leftists would find the world sketched out in this essay as generally desirable. Perhaps progressives can start from there. Take it, it’s yours.
I’ll throw out one more thing and for this I’ll have to shed niceties:
I originally come from the Left, study leftist literature and follow contemporary leftist critiques. If I had a dollar for every book, essay, op-ed or think piece I’ve read where leftists call for a non-violent mass movement, where some critical mass has to be achieved to initiate change –and that it needs to be done quickly– I’d be able to comfortably afford my rent. I’ve been hearing this call-to-action from the Left for as long as I can remember.
So I ask: where is it, Anthony? And what are progressives waiting for?Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Anti-Fascism Has Arrived: Here’s Where It Needs to Go appeared first on It's Going Down.
Following the clashes in Charlottesville and the massive anti-fascist demonstrations afterwards in Durham, Boston, and the Bay Area, the struggle against fascism has arrived in the consciousness of the general public. Tens of thousands of people are realizing that the fight against fascism didn’t end in 1945—that today, as increasingly authoritarian governments collude with ascendant fascist movements, this battle is more pressing than ever.
It’s worth taking a moment to review what anti-fascists have accomplished since Trump was elected. Despite harassment and attacks from fascists and law enforcement, what was initially a few hundred people without financial resources or sponsors has grown into the foundation for a massive social movement. On April 15, fascists rampaged through Berkeley, recording video footage of themselves beating people to use for recruiting purposes. On Sunday, August 27, the same fascists attempted to hold another rally in Berkeley. In response to the murder of Heather Heyer during a fascist rally in Charlottesville two weeks prior, thousands of people converged to make the fascist demonstration impossible.
Imagine if the “Unite the Right” rally had taken place without resistance, and a thousand white supremacists had been able to march around Charlottesville unopposed. In that scenario, emboldened fascists could have presented themselves as a legitimate part of the political spectrum, while preparing the way for more murders like the ones in Charleston and Portland. In that case, the government with Trump at the helm would be able to present itself as the only possible solution to fascist violence, and the general public would be forced to seek assistance from the very authorities that are already implementing most of the white supremacist agenda. We should be grateful that long before Charlottesville, forward-thinking anti-fascists were doing the thankless work of monitoring fascists and mobilizing against them.
But now that the struggle against fascism has arrived on a massive scale, it’s time to come to grips with the limitations the movement faces today. Every victory generates new challenges. Let’s explore the obstacles that the anti-fascist movement will have to overcome to succeed in creating a world free of authoritarianism.
Not your grandfather’s anti-fascism.Corporate Media Back the Fascists
The Washington Post titled their coverage of Sunday’s demonstration “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley.” It is not surprising when Fox News publishes barefaced propaganda describing the organizer of far-right demonstrations that have included at least one fascist murderer as a “prayer activist,” but it is more unsettling to see fascist talking points parroted by supposedly liberal outlets.
Scaremongering from the corporate media.
The image at the top of the Washington Post article shows a right-wing demonstrator apparently being shoved by an anti-fascist with a shield. Yet several videos show the same far-right demonstrator pepper-spraying anti-fascist demonstrators without provocation and then pepper-spraying people at randomimmediately before the photo was taken. If you look closely, the attacker is wearing a shirt that celebrates Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet for murdering dissidents by dropping them out of helicopters. If you look closer, you can see that the anti-fascist in the picture has a stick, but is choosing not to use it, instead simply using a shield to block the fascist with the pepper-spray from carrying out further attacks. In fact, the Washington Post chose to use a photo in which the assailant’s right hand is not visible, so readers would not see the pepper spray he holds in it.
Take a closer look.
When the Washington Post portrays such fascists as “peaceful,” suggesting that they are victims even as they attack people and glorify mass murder, this gives them legitimacy, securing space for them to recruit and to promote and organize further attacks. Why would liberal media outlets do this?
Journalists often determine the substance of their story in advance, and it appears that media outlets across the spectrum had determined in advance to report the anti-fascist demonstration in Berkeley as an expression of violent excess even before it happened. In the event, the demonstration was largely peaceful; even the worst clashes were considerably less violent than the fighting on April 15. Despite this, corporate media outlets that had ignored April 15 altogether devoted considerable space to a few isolated incidents in which anti-fascists scuffled with fascists or other Trump supporters.
The intention was clearly to impose a limit on the amount of popular legitimacy anti-fascists would be permitted to accrue after the events in Charlottesville. Two weeks of positive coverage of anti-fascists, during which various members of the clergy came forward to praise their efforts, were deemed to be too much. Heather Heyer’s murder had taken corporate media by surprise, interrupting their conventional narratives and proving that the threat anti-fascists had supposedly been blowing out of proportion was all too real. It took corporate editors two weeks to regain control of the discourse. As soon as they did, they reimposed their old stereotypes as if Heather had never been killed.
This should put an end to any illusions we might have had that corporate media could side with anti-fascists. Outlets like the Washington Post aspire to position themselves against both Trump and his adversaries in the streets—to occupy what some call “the extreme center.” They are gambling that the current polarization of society is temporary, that they can be the beneficiaries of disillusionment with both sides.
Anti-fascists have to strategize about how to organize and legitimize our efforts to the general public without the benefit of positive media coverage. This is no easy task. At the minimum, it will demand our own grassroots media, at the same time that this media is under systematic assault from right-wing trolls.
This challenge is symptomatic of the larger phenomenon of polarization, which is worth examining separately.The Swinging Pendulum of Polarization
US society has been splintering and polarizing for years now, since the recession of 2008 if not before. The movement against police and white supremacy that burst onto the national stage in Ferguson in 2014 as Black Lives Matter generated a far-right backlash, which inspired a resurgence of anti-fascist organizing. In response, fascists gave angry liberals and anti-fascists a central place in their strategy, seeking to provoke them into reactive behavior that could be used to further mobilize the right-wing base. Milo Yiannopoulos used this strategy until it blew up in his face last February, when a black bloc of hundreds shut down his event in Berkeley.
Various fascist and fascist-friendly organizers also used this approach, baiting leftists and anti-fascists with a series of “free speech” rallies in Berkeley, Portland, and elsewhere around the country that won the nascent fascist movement notoriety and momentum. This movement appeared fully formed for the first time in Charlottesville—but the shockwaves of that debut drew many more people into the movement against fascism, changing the balance of power once again. The “free speech” rallies scheduled afterwards in Boston and the Bay Area were total washouts for the fascists.
In each of these cases, when the pendulum of polarization swung to one side, the opposing side was able to use the specter of that victory to draw more sympathizers into action. With the media narrative coming out about Berkeley, the pendulum has again swung away from anti-fascists to benefit the right-wing reaction.
So long as this pattern persists, every anti-fascist victory will produce an even greater threat from the far-right and the government. To break out of the pattern, anti-fascists have to strike blows in ways that don’t enable fascists to cash in on the resulting fear among right-wingers, or else to find a way to draw in large swathes of the population more rapidly than their competition on the right. We can offer a few hypotheses about how to accomplish this.
Anti-fascists in Dallas, Texas.The Myth of Symmetry
The allegation that fascists and anti-fascists are equally bad has been advanced most famously by Donald Trump himself in his response to the events in Charlottesville. He suggested that the problem was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,” refusing to say a word about the fascists who murdered Heather Heyer. This should tell us something about those who describe fascists and anti-fascists as symmetrical.
To equate those who fight for freedom and equality with those who want an autocratic state to enforce hierarchies is to reserve all legitimacy for the state alone—which is itself an autocratic position. It means celebrating the legalism of passive spectators over the heroes who fought the rise of dictatorships in Italy, Germany, Spain, Chile, Greece, and a hundred other nations. It means congratulating those who keep their hands clean while their neighbors are rounded up and imprisoned, deported, or killed.
We have to become adept at spelling out the ethical differences between fascism and anti-fascism, and all the justifications for forms of direct action that can actually be effective in this struggle. We need allies from many different walks of life who can help us make this case to the public at large.
Unfortunately, we can’t count on everyone on the Left to behave responsibly. In “How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right,’” the same Chris Hedges who assisted the state in dividing and repressing the Occupy movement reappears to perform the same service in relation to the movements against fascism and the Trump administration.
The irony of a war journalist perennially accusing others of being driven by a lust for adrenaline should not be lost on anyone. It is worse still that Hedges, as a journalist, arrogates himself the right to pass judgment on the events in Charlottesville from a distance rather than deferring to people like Cornel West who were actually there putting their bodies on the line. But the true irony here is that Hedges purports to be warning against precisely the problem that he himself is creating. “By brawling in the streets,” Hedges alleges, “antifa allows the corporate state… to use the false argument of moral equivalency to criminalize the work of all anti-capitalists.” Actually, it is Hedges who is equipping the state to do this, by attributing “the same lust for violence” to anti-fascists that he believes motivates fascists. He could just as easily use his soapbox to debunk this moral equivalency, but he lacks the moral courage—he simply cannot resist performing the same kind of “self-advertisement for moral purity” that he accuses others of.
In 2012, when the authorities needed a narrative with which to isolate the ungovernable elements of the Occupy movement, Hedges provided that narrative, and the FBI subsequently parroted it verbatim in their efforts to justify a series of entrapment cases. Now Hedges is providing Trump’s government exactly the same service, equipping them to declare “antifa” a terrorist organization, as many on the far right have already been demanding. Already, the mayor of Berkeley is calling for “antifa” to be designated as a gang—imagine if everyone who opposes the rise of fascism is classified as a gang member, or a terrorist!
Hedges needs to understand that it is not anti-fascists gaining ground that brings about fascist attacks and government crackdowns. If anti-fascists were not gaining power in the streets, fascists would still be taking advantage of the despair and resentment of poor whites, and the government would still be developing more means of repression—there would simply be no social movement to protect us from them. It is fundamentally paranoid, disempowering, and ahistorical to understand these developments as the result of anti-fascist activity. On the contrary, it is imperative that we build the capacity to act effectively in the streets before the fascists outstrip us and the government is able to centralize enough power to establish tyranny once and for all.
All that said, we also need to avoid offering our enemies on the Left and Right alike the opportunity to present us as a mirror image of our fascist adversaries. Let’s explore some ways we can go about this.Identity and Containment
On one hand, it has been extremely useful for people in the US to learn from anti-fascist movements in other parts of the world. At the same time, the wholesale uncritical introduction of European models has created problems, chief of which is the containment of the struggle against fascism within a discrete identity, “antifa.” It has been a tremendous boon to the far right that they can describe anti-fascists without having to spell out the entire word “fascist”—it helps them to avoid the question of why anyone would oppose resisting fascism.
In German, abbreviations are common: national socialist becomes Nazi, anti-fascist becomes antifa. But in English, especially to those not familiar with the history of German anti-fascist struggles, the word antifa can appear alien and off-putting. At its worst, the German antifa movement has tended towards subcultural insularity; this is the last thing we need in the US, locked in a massive struggle with fascists and the government itself—a struggle we can only hope to win if ever-wider segments of the population are drawn into our side of the barricades.
Identity is fundamentally about distinguishing oneself from others. Anti-fascism, however, is for everybody. We should be careful not to insulate it within a particular demographic with a specific dress code and lingo. This is paramount because the far right are scrambling to depict antifa as a monolithic, hostile, alien organization. Our task is not just to build a network of groups, but to create an anti-fascist momentum that will spread contagiously throughout society at large, along with the critiques and tactics necessary for this fight. Specific antifa groups and the cultural cache of “antifa” itself can be useful in that project, as can black bloc tactics, provided we evaluate them as tools for achieving particular objectives rather than expressions of identity or belonging.
One of countless European solidarity demonstrations in memory of Heather Heyer, who was murdered in Charlottesville.The Tendency to Militarize
As the conflict between fascists and anti-fascists intensifies, we are seeing more and more guns in the streets. Some people who were in Charlottesville reported that it was good that there were guns on both sides: it discouraged fascists from escalating physical conflicts past a certain point. Others report that most of the anti-fascists openly bearing arms were located some distance from the clashes. Some people who were in Ferguson at the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement say that without the threat of gunfire from the locals, the police would never have permitted the demonstrations to happen. Others who experienced the trauma of having their loved ones shot before them counsel that the consequences of bringing guns into street conflict are weightier than most people can imagine.
Participants in the Syrian revolution report that for the first several months, the revolt created an open space of debate and possibility in which many people of different walks of life participated. Later, after the conflict escalated, power among the rebels accrued in the hands of religious fundamentalists, as they were the only ones who were able to consistently acquire military supplies—and from that point on, the horizon of liberation and transformation was closed. Sometimes, such escalation is inescapable, even if it closes the door to future possibilities; in any case, it is better to prepare for it now than to be suddenly caught flatfooted. But if our goal is to carry out a revolution rather than to fight in a civil war, we should not hurry the process of escalation—we should drag it out as long as we can. Most of the social changes we want to see cannot be brought about by guns.
Likewise, we should not imagine that coercive force can solve everything, nor permit fascists and state repression to put us so on edge that we see enemies everywhere we look and begin to attack people when it is not strategic. In the words of an elder anti-fascist veteran from Germany, fascist violence aims to exterminate, while anti-fascist violence aims to educate. We should not hurry to put fascist martyrs in the ground next to Heather Heyer. We must never risk coming across as bullies. It must always be clear that we are here to protect the public at large, not to assert our own authority. When we are compelled to use coercive force, we must make sure that the ways we do so don’t centralize power or legitimacy within our own movement.
Anti-fascists in Berkeley on Sunday behind a banner reading “Avenge Charlottesville / Defend your community.”The Language of Terrorism
In the wake of Heather Heyer’s murder, signs appeared at vigils and rallies reading “White Supremacy is Terrorism.” While it is understandable that people wish to condemn her murder in the strongest possible terms, it is dangerous to use the language of terrorism to do so.
The framework of terrorism is constructed by the state to define who has the right to employ violence and who doesn’t. When we denounce white supremacists as terrorists, we mimic the verbiage of Senator Cory Gardner, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House.
Terrorist is used to designate those who are beyond the state’s control and cannot be brought into political alignment with the state. This explains why Heather’s murderer has not been charged with terrorism, while many anarchists who did not so much as scratch someone have received terrorism charges over the past decade and a half.
Using the rhetoric of the state reinforces frameworks and narratives that the authorities will ultimately use against us. This is dangerous to our movements and constitutes a betrayal of comrades engaged in struggles we’re often aligned with. Palestinians are labeled terrorists to delegitimize their struggle against the Israeli state. Like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, the YPG and YPJ in Rojava have been labeled terrorists. The language and ideology of the “war on terror” were carefully introduced into US political discourse in order to prepare the ground for the catastrophic invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The word terrorism comes to us from the Jacobin government’s brutal and merciless rule in France in the 1790s—the term was invented to describe their “reign of terror” during which thousands were executed. Even though the word was coined for the Jacobins and they wore it proudly as a badge, some historians today argue that the Jacobins weren’t terrorists because they were a state entity with legitimate power. This should give us a sense of the extent to which the discourse of terrorism serves to give the state carte blanche while delegitimizing all who stand against it.There Is No Good Authoritarianism
Sunday’s far-right rally in Berkeley was promoted under the slogan “No to Marxism in America.” As with the far-right “March against Sharia,” there is no danger of the United States coming under a Marxist government any time soon. Like all totalitarians, fascists desperately need enemies even more oppressive than themselves to point to in order to convince people to join their ranks. There is an ominous symmetry between groups like ISIS and Western fascists, some of whom openly fantasize about a “White Sharia.” This explains their obsession with authoritarian Marxism.
In fact, the fiercest opposition to contemporary fascist organizing has not come from authoritarian Marxists, but from anarchists who oppose state power itself. This is inconvenient for many fascists in the US, who still need to present themselves as enemies of “big government” in order to appeal to US Libertarians and traditional conservatives.
If fascists are eager to paint all their domestic opponents with the broad brush of Marxism, we should not hasten to assist them. Yes, authoritarian Marxists have historically played a role in the fight against fascism, but they have hardly played it honorably. They began by betraying and undermining other social movements as early as 1871. If Stalin hadn’t sabotaged anti-fascist participants in the Spanish Civil War and other movements around Europe and then concluded a pact with Hitler, the Second World War would have unfolded much differently, and it might not have taken decades afterwards for grassroots liberation movements to recover.
Both fascism and authoritarian Marxism are experiencing a small resurgence today. Much of this is taking place among people who grew up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, who are too young to have grandparents who lived through the Second World War. For many in the United States, totalitarianism is abstract, something to joke about on the internet. Some people on the Left see the hammer and sickle the way many right-wingers see the swastika: as a provocative meme rather than a blood-drenched symbol of oppression. Yet Stalin, too, carried out ethnic cleansing, as have many other authoritarian Marxist regimes.
One cannot consistently oppose fascism without opposing all forms of authoritarian government. This is not to say that rank-and-file members of authoritarian communist organizations can never be comrades in this struggle. Many of them are sincere people with the best of intentions—and clearly we need all the comrades we can get when we are facing down Nazis with guns. The point is that anti-fascists should oppose the leadership of authoritarian Marxist parties for many of the same reasons that we oppose fascists and other authoritarians. If you care about a member of an organization like the Bolshevik Party, you can express that care by making sure that his organization never comes to power—for if history is any guide, he will be the next up against the wall after you.
We must make it clear to the general public that we do not intend to impose a new dictatorship, but only to open and preserve spaces of freedom. There is no statist solution for tyranny.Martyrdom
Unfortunately, Heather Heyer is not the first person to be taken from us by fascist violence, and she will not be the last. In addition to being wary of the discourse of terrorism and the tendency to militarize our struggles, we should wary of the discourse of martyrdom and tendency to celebrate death in battle. We need to find ways to remember people above all for who they were, for what their lives gave to the world, not for how they died or what their deaths meant to the struggle. We should not begin to regard ourselves or each other as playing pieces to be exchanged for strategic gains.
We live in a society in which aging and death are concealed from most of us. If this struggle continues to intensify, more and more of us will be forced to learn what it is like to spend hard weeks in the hospital, to meet at funerals as well as outside jails and courtrooms. We should approach this as another opportunity to come to know ourselves and each other better, to recognize what is beautiful and worthwhile in life—the things for which we are fighting in the first place. We should not subordinate ourselves to the struggle, but recognize it as one of the ways that life pours forth abundantly within us.Cutting to the Roots
The vast majority of the anti-fascist struggle does not take place in street confrontations. It takes place in how we raise our children; it takes place in the hard conversations at workplaces and family dinners; it takes place in the ways we relate to our neighbors, the ways we understand togetherness and belonging. To triumph, we have to make it possible for people of all genders and ethnicities and religions to work together to survive the ordeals of capitalism; we have to create movements that can offer everybody more than the fascists ever could.
Ultimately, a thoroughgoing anti-fascist movement should not focus on targeting fascist groups that are so marginal that they stick out from the rest of the political spectrum, but take on the infrastructure through which any authoritarian program will be enacted. That is to say, it should focus on the state itself. If we simply fight defensive battles, the fascists will eventually gain the initiative. We should take the experiences of fighting together that we can experience in anti-fascist struggle and use those as points of departure to work together to solve all of the problems that we have. This is the way to take the offensive and move on to confronting the fundamental sources of oppression.
Some believe that life will go back to normal soon enough, and fascism and anti-fascism will once more be things of the past. But we fear that we have yet to see how far these conflicts will go, and that we have to invest ourselves in confronting them head on. The only way out is through. Double or nothing.
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Insanity! Instead of rebuilding Houston and/or US infrastructure: No end in sight: Pentagon awards $727mn contract to support Afghan Air Force | 29 Aug 2017 | The Pentagon has awarded a contract worth over $727 million in support of the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing unit.
The Panama Papers has been dubbed a “notable security success” in a new academic report, which says easy-to-use tools and firm instructions were key in keeping the investigation a secret up until it launched.
The paper, titled ‘When the Weakest Link is Strong: Secure Collaboration in the Case of the Panama Papers’, sought to unpack how ICIJ was able to wrangle nearly 400 journalists across 80 countries to work together on the story for 12 months without anybody else finding out.
One of the project’s biggest successes, according to the report, was how easy members found it to use security measures such as encryption and two-factor authentication.
This was despite a survey of 118 ICIJ members that found journalists were mostly unaware or had never used PGP or two-factor authentication prior to this project (47 percent and 45 percent respectively).
The decision that all members must encrypt their data and use two-factor authentication for logging into networks was enforced by ICIJ throughout the project. The authors said this was a “striking” decision, but meant journalists weren’t left wondering which tools to use.
However, just 10 percent of the journalists surveyed said the technology was “extremely hard” to use with the majority, 63 percent, saying the security requirements were “easy” to use.
“I am kind of technologically challenged, so the fact that I was able to navigate these security features means it was probably as simple as it could be while still being effective,” said one member.
The authors also praised the decision to encourage encryption by default for all messages and documents – no matter how sensitive the material – as it eliminated any “social complexities” for journalists around what to encrypt and what not to encrypt.
Another reason journalists were so willing to adapt to the technology was because they understood the sensitive nature of the documents, but also didn’t want to be left out of future projects, according to the authors.
Journalists also praised ICIJ’s secure communication platform, known as the Global I-Hub, for being an easy tool to use that enabled them to effectively collaborate with other journalists – no matter where they were.
“One of the more important impacts was that journalists discovered how convenient, powerful and good it is to collaborate … I think that the I-Hub contributed to this: to teach them how to interact, and it is a really good thing to share knowledge, share documents, share data, and build these networks,” said one ICIJ staff member who was also surveyed for the paper.
The I-HUB was developed by ICIJ’s technology team to be similar to other programs they were already using. The authors highlight the use of a “like” button (similar to that of Facebook’s) that allowed journalists to quickly respond to another member’s latest find.
The authors of the article, which was included in the 26th USENIX Security Symposium this year, were Susan McGregor, Columbia Journalism School; Elizabeth Watkins, Columbia University; Mahdi Al-Ameen and Kelly Caine, Clemson University; and Franziska Roesner, University of Washington.
A full copy of the report can be found here.
Read more about the impact from ICIJ’s investigations, and find out how you can support ICIJ’s work
Find out first! Receive ICIJ’s investigations by email.
The post Panama Papers a ‘notable security success’ appeared first on International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
A breakthrough study from Harvard unearths the extent Exxon has gone to in order to destroy the public's trust in climate change science.
Last week, Harvard University researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes (of Merchants of Doubt fame) published the first peer-reviewed study comparing ExxonMobil’s internal and external communications on climate change.
The abstract of the Supran and Oreskes study shows that ExxonMobil’s own scientists and executives had a much sharper understanding of climate science than the company told the public (emphasis added):var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12083'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: #ExxonKnewnew york timesadvertorialexxon climate change
North Korea missiles: Trump warns 'all options' on table | 29 Aug 2017 | US President Donald Trump has said North Korea's latest missile launch signals "contempt" for its neighbours and the UN. He said the North would only increase its isolation and that "all options" were on the table. The missile flew over northern Japan's Hokkaido island before crashing into the northern Pacific Ocean.
A Statement on Resisting FBI Harassment, from Jayden Savino
by Jayden Savino / Earth First! Newswire
My name is Jayden Savino and I am an Anarchist and Earth First!er currently living on occupied Cherokee land, often referred to as Asheville, North Carolina. Since April 3rd, the FBI has been harassing folks in my personal and professional life. The FBI has consistently requested that these individuals suggest that I call the FBI to answer questions regarding an investigation. I have secured legal representation and remained silent throughout this period of state harassment. On July 10th, the FBI visited my parents’ house and questioned my father, asking very specific questions about me, my constitutionally-protected beliefs and associations, and certain activist communities with which I may or may not be affiliated. The FBI failed to fish any information from my parents, who are now legally represented.
This harassment comes during a period of heightened state repression of radicals in North Carolina. For instance, on July 10—the same day the FBI visited my parents’ house—North Carolina resident Katie Yow received a Grand Jury subpoena. These seemingly unrelated cases appear to be parts of separate investigations, but the parallels paint a picture of increased and possibly coordinated targeted repression of anarchists in this part of the country. While the stated reasons for the investigations are different, the likely political motivation, and the kinds of information sought, are the same. Thankfully, another parallel in these investigations is Yow’s refusal to cooperate. I too will continue to resist the state and struggle towards liberation for the Earth and all of the life forms she has created. I wish to express my noncompliance once again.
The FBI is attempting to make myself and my community feel isolated and fearful. Unfortunately for the FBI, this harassment has done the opposite for myself, my community, and my family. This type of FBI repression is not a new phenomenon, and the state’s efforts to target activists and dismantle movements is as American as genocide. While it is unclear what exactly is being investigated, I will continue to embody my solidarity with the resilient herstory of state repression resistors, along with those who will continue to resist after my time. There is no greater betrayal or humiliation to our movement and the Earth than to cooperate with the state.
The amount of support I have received from lawyers, comrades, lawyers who are comrades, and people I’ve never met is breathtaking. We’ve created our own silver lining, one that has made us stronger and more fierce than ever. No matter how severe their threats—or repressive their tactics—under no circumstances will I ever cooperate with the FBI or police. The fearless herstory of state defiance from black, indigenous, prisoner, queer, and animal/earth liberation movements fills me and my community with more than enough hope, guidance, and defiance to resist any repression the FBI has up their sleeves. I was an anarchist before this harassment, I am an anarchist now, and nothing they can do will compromise the integrity of my beliefs or move me to participate in undermining the integrity of my community.
We have nothing to gain, and much of our freedom to lose, from cooperating with the FBI. If an FBI agent contacts you, do not speak to them. Remember: Law enforcement officers are trained to lie to us and to manipulate individuals into responding to questions in ways that can be used to justify criminal charges of lying to a federal agent. Those charges, which carry a five year prison penalty, are then used as leverage to coerce further cooperation and damage our communities. It is therefore safest not to answer any of their questions. If an agent comes to your home, do not answer the door. Ask them to leave their card at the door and to leave, and contact an attorney immediately. If you have been contacted by law enforcement and would like to spread the word to keep your community aware and safe, or if you have questions about FBI harassment of activists, you can contact the Earth First! Journal at collective[at]earthfirstjournal.org.
Here are some resources with information on what to do if a state agent contacts you or someone you know:
“If An Agent Knocks” booklet by the Center for Constitutional Rights
“Know Your Rights for Activists” article and video by the Civil Liberties Defense Center
President Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
President Trump is a compulsive liar; we know that. He lies about things that are world-shattering and things that are trivial in equal measure. One of the more obvious lies he told during the campaign and since he's been in office is his oft-repeated claim that he knows nothing about Russia and that the whole Russia scandal is a hoax made up by the Democrats to deny him his glorious electoral victory.
As CNN summarized in this article, Trump used to brag about his knowledge of Russia and claimed that he had a personal relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin -- until February of 2016 when he suddenly began to claim that he had never met the man and had never done any business in Russia other than the now-legendary Miss Universe pageant in 2013. He slipped up at least once in the ensuing months, telling Bret Baier of Fox News he might knew Putin but couldn't talk about it, but for the most part his line was this one, told to a Miami TV station in July of 2016: "I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do. I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever."
As I said, Trump lies. A lot. So for a long time it was impossible to know whether he was lying when he said he was involved with Russia and knew the country well or when he said he had nothing to do with it whatsoever. That's been cleared up.
Last spring Forbes reported that Trump had been in the process of putting together a deal with the Agalarov family, oligarchs who had helped bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. Emin Agalarov, the pop-singer son of billionaire developer Aras Agalarov, told Forbes that they let it go when Trump decided to run for president but that they considered it to be on hold. (And yes, these Agalarovs are the same folks whose publicist arranged the infamous "Clinton dirt" meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer.)
On Sunday night the Washington Post reported on yet another plan to build a Moscow Trump Tower in 2015 and beyond, while Trump was running for president. And on Monday the paper, along with the New York Times, released emails about the project written by Trump's longtime business partner Felix Sater and his personal friend and Trump organization executive, Michael Cohen. According to the Times:
Sater's emails were sent to Cohen and boasted of connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin that would allow the project to get completed and help "get Donald elected."
Cohen emailed Putin's personal spokesman to ask for help in getting the stalled project started again.
Later in the day, ABC News reported that Trump had signed off on the letter of intent in the fall of 2015, during the presidential primary campaign, confirming that he knew about the deal and proving once and for all that he'd been full of it when he insisted he'd never had any dealings with Russia.
The Sater emails included this startling claim:
"I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this, I will manage this process."
Why building this tower was supposed to lead to Trump's election is a mystery. Oddly, none of the emails the Times excerpted directly mention the tower project, raising plenty of questions about exactly what they might have been talking about.
Marcy Wheeler, among others, wondered why Cohen would have reached out to Putin's communications chief about a real estate licensing deal. That communications chief, according to the "Steele dossier," was "the 'main protagonist' of the kompromat campaign against Hillary." Wheeler speculated that this alleged Trump Tower deal, never before revealed, might be cover for another kind of "deal" altogether.
Whether or not this turns out to be some kind of collusion or conspiracy with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton and get Trump elected, we've never seen anything like this: Associates of a presidential candidate directly asking the leader of a foreign adversary to help them arrange for what amounts to a multimillion-dollar payoff. It's shocking on its face, especially since Trump lied about it repeatedly.
There has long been keen interest in both Cohen and Sater as part of this Russia investigation. The two men were boyhood acquaintances growing up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, around a lot of Russian émigrés. Sater is Russian-American and Cohen is married to a Ukrainian national; both have years of experience working in the gray shadows of the Russian financial and business world. They also have years of experience working with Donald Trump on many projects, including Trump Soho, which was sued for fraud. In recent years Trump's real estate projects have sold nearly $100 million in condos wealthy Russians.
Sater did time in prison for assault and was later convicted for fraud, after which he apparently went to work as an FBI informant. He has also claimed to have been involved with the CIA, tracing illegal arms deals in the Russian black market. He is, to say the least, an interesting character and one that special counsel Robert Mueller presumably has his eyes on.
About two weeks ago this rumor from Paul Wood at The Spectator floated around the internet and no one knew what to make of it:
For several weeks there have been rumors that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. "He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison," someone talking to Mueller's investigators informed me.
Sater hinted in an interview earlier this month that he may be cooperating with both Mueller's investigation and congressional probes of Trump.
"In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colourful character you have ever talked about," Sater told New York Magazine. "Unfortunately, I can't talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain't anything as small as whether or not they're gonna call me to the Senate committee."
Maybe he's as much of a BS artist as his friend in the White House. He certainly seems like the type. But if this is true it might mean we finally learn whether Trump was merely making corrupt deals with Russian oligarchs to line his own pockets or was actively colluding with the Russian government to become president of the United States. What a choice.
The Trump administration has made "achieving American energy dominance" a central policy goal. President Trump asserts that "energy dominance" requires expanding nuclear development, increasing coal and natural gas exports, building transnational pipelines and accessing offshore oil and gas deposits. These efforts, Trump contends, will maximize the nation's "boundless capacity" for energy production, including spreading US fossil fuels around the globe, to showcase its independence from foreign oil.
My research studies how expansionist efforts play out in the US unincorporated territory of Puerto Rico. For centuries, Spanish and US colonial governments and corporations have practiced what could be called "energy dominance" by harnessing human labor and fossil fuels to exploit local resources through mining, coffee and sugarcane development, and other industries. Puerto Rico's history makes clear that Trump's policy, which benefits corporations and their political allies to the detriment of local communities, promises more of the same.
Fueling Energy Colonialism
The United States seized control of Puerto Rico in 1898. Like other imperial powers, the United States justified exploiting other people and places by portraying them as backward and promising to modernize them.
Many US government officials, legal experts, researchers and artists assumed that colonized peoples were inferior. In their view, African and indigenous ancestries and prior colonization by Spain marked people who lived in the newly acquired "possessions" as primitive, childlike and weak.
In his 1899 book "Our Islands and Their People," writer and diplomat José de Olivares stated,
"Without our fostering benevolence, this island [Puerto Rico] would be as unhappy and prostrate as are some of the neighboring British, French, Dutch, and Danish islands."
During this same period, Supreme Court justices described US colonies as home to "uncivilized" and "savage" "alien races." Racist claims of US superiority and goodwill drove colonial policy and relationships of dependency.
Locked Into Fossil Fuel
US imperial ambitions prompted politicians to position Puerto Rico as a showcase for capitalism in Latin America. In the 1940s Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín and US government officials implemented a massive industrialization plan called Operation Bootstrap.
The program used tax breaks, duty-free trade, exploitable local labor, natural resources and cheap foreign crude oil and electricity prices to attract investors. Manufacturing, pharmaceutical and oil-based industries flocked to Puerto Rico.
Beginning in the 1970s, however, these incentives decreased. As tax exemptions expired and wage standards rose, numerous companies left Puerto Rico. The net effect of Operation Bootstrap was to aggravate economic inequality and unemployment and contribute to the territory's debt and environmental crises.
Puerto Ricans pay rates two to three times higher for electricity than continental US residents. They also experience blackouts and other power disruptions caused by the grid's aging infrastructure. A bankrupt public energy utility is largely responsible for these daily hardships.
Fast-Forwarding Energy Projects
In 2011 Puerto Rican government officials began describing local energy challenges as an "energy emergency." They used this framing to structure policy and sway public support for natural gas projects.
One example, the Vía Verde pipeline, was designed to deliver natural gas to northern Puerto Rico. Advocates claimed the project would reduce oil imports and lower electricity bills. Opponents of this widely unpopular proposal raised concerns about endangered species, heritage sites, human health, misleading financial benefits and the dismissal of renewable alternatives.
In 2012 the project was defeated by a broad-based coalition of local community members and Puerto Ricans in the US diaspora. However, the Aguirre Offshore GasPort quickly emerged as an alternative. The GasPort would receive liquefied natural gas shipments from the United States and deliver the gas to shore via an underwater pipeline. Some nearby residents argue that the project will harm local fishers, wildlife and coral reefs. They also are worried about potential pipeline breaks and spills.
Excelerate Energy, the US-based company planning to build the GasPort, connects speed, which it calls "energy fast forward," with progress on its website to promote liquefied natural gas technology. However, the GasPort project ignores calls for local control of sustainable, renewable energy.
Earlier this month Excelerate withdrew its contract with Puerto Rico's public energy utility because it is bankrupt. Excelerate claims it plans to move forward with required regulatory agencies to develop the project, and received support when the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled against a petition by grassroots group el Comité Diálogo Ambiental to invalidate the project's environmental impact statement.
This accelerated approach is advanced by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA, meaning "promise" in Spanish), enacted in 2016. The measure created a control board to impose austerity measures, and also authorizes fast-tracking of critical energy projects.
Critics, including energy experts and environmental justice activists, argue that while Puerto Rico certainly faces energy emergencies, the government is encouraging rushed project impact reviews that inhibit democratic engagement and renewable alternatives.
These controversies reflect struggles elsewhere against accelerated project development that denies self-determination. The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies confronted similar challenges when President Trump reversed President Obama's decision to block the Dakota Access Pipeline. In June 2017 a federal court ruled the Trump administration had cut numerous corners in a review of the pipeline's environmental impacts.
The fast-forward approach also is used by Fueling US Forward, an organization funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group has targeted low-income communities and people of color, arguing that they are most impacted by energy price fluctuations and should have consistent access to fossil fuels. This strategy, which environmental justice advocates have described as "exploitative, sad and borderline racist," obscures that these same communities are disproportionately burdened by pollution and environmental hazards, many linked to fossil fuel production and use.
Many Puerto Ricans oppose the continued use of their environment as a sacrifice zone for energy colonialism. For example, opposition to illegal coal ash dumping in the southern town of Peñuelas continues to intensify. Activists have used tactics including an encampment and a silent protest.
The University of Puerto Rico's National Institute of Energy and Island Sustainability is working to foster democratic modes of engagement for developing a sustainable, renewable energy future. As a collaborator with local organizers, I have learned from residents who hope to achieve Puerto Rico's first community-designed and -managed solar project in the town of Coquí.
These struggles for community control and climate and energy justice show that many Puerto Ricans reject continued reliance on fossil fuel to power their lives. In an encouraging sign, Puerto Rico's electric utility has just announced plans to add 240 megawatts of large-scale solar generation by 2019.
Meanwhile, with the International Energy Agency predicting that the United States will become a top gas exporter, discussions of "energy dominance" and other related rhetoric will become increasingly relevant. These terms echo both past and present expansionist endeavors. The Trump administration's policies are just the newest chapter.
Disclosure statement: Catalina M. de Onís collaborates with the Comité Diálogo Ambiental, a grassroots group in Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Last month, California Labor Commissioner Julie Su distributed a memo instructing her staff to turn away any Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who show up at labor offices without a federal warrant. This action came in response to three recent cases in which ICE sought workers' information shortly after they filed claims against their employers. Su told The Los Angeles Times that, in two of these cases, ICE officials showed up at the employees' labor hearing. In case ICE continues to show up at such hearings, Su provided suggested scripts to guide the interaction. "Would you please leave our office? The Labor Commissioner does not consent to your entry or search of any part of our office," reads one portion of the text.
ICE's targeting of labor hearings falls into a much broader pattern of workplace immigration raids. The second term of the George W. Bush administration saw a boom in such policies, with authorities carrying out hundreds of sweeps targeting workers. In May of 2008, hundreds of Homeland Security agents swooped into Postville, Iowa and arrested 389 employees at a kosher meatpacking plant. Nearly 300 of those workers spent five months in jail before being deported. In a town with a population of just 2,300 people, this meant that more than 10 percent of all residents were incarcerated as the result of one raid. "They don't go after employers. They don't put CEOs in jail," said Postville Community Schools superintendent David Strudthoff at the time. "[This] is like a natural disaster -- only this one is man-made. In the end, it is the greater population that will suffer and the workforce that will be held accountable."
While Barack Obama deported more people than any other president, the tactic of targeting workers fluctuated on his watch. Data from ICE indicates that workplace immigration arrests peaked for Obama in 2011 -- but never reached the levels seen under Bush. The National Employment Law Project's (NELP) Haeyoung Yoon told In These Times that, while we haven't seen widespread examples of workplace raids under the Trump administration, this doesn't mean they're not coming eventually. "These efforts take a lot of time to plan," said Yoon.
Underscoring Yoon's point, 55 undocumented workers were detained in February in a series of Mississippi restaurant raids. After the arrests, ICE public affairs officer Thomas Byrd said that the federal search warrants were part of a year-long investigation.
State organizations like the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition are training employers to prepare for the possibility of such sweeps. NELP and the National Immigration Law Center have created a helpful guide for businesses concerned about ICE raids, which includes details on how to keep agents out, what to do if they enter and what actions can be taken after they leave. "Employers and their employees have rights when it comes to immigration enforcement in the workplace," wrote NELP staff attorney Laura Huizar shortly after the guide was published. "Employers can and should take steps now to protect those rights and do what's best for their business and their teams."
In California, where almost half of the state's farmworkers are undocumented, there have been recent legislative efforts to combat workplace raids. The SEIU-sponsored Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450) is a bill, introduced this March, that would require all employers to demand a federal warrant if ICE shows up. The legislation, which was introduced by San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu, would also prevent businesses from handing over personal employee information unless they were subpoenaed.
But what is to be done about employers who willingly collude with ICE? While explaining her memo, Julie Su told the Los Angeles Times that she suspected businesses of tipping agents off to labor hearings, events where only the employer and employee would be aware of the scheduled time. Earlier this year, Jose Flores, a 37-year-old Massachusetts man, was arrested by ICE shortly after a workers' compensation meeting. Flores' lawyers believe that the arrest might have been retaliation from Flores' employer, Tara Construction, looking for a way to get out of paying out the claim. Stephen Murray, a lawyer for Tara Construction, insists that his client made no contact with ICE and had no reason to believe Flores' was undocumented.
A recent investigation by ProPublica and NPR reveals that this is hardly an isolated case. Their review focuses on Florida, where a 2003 law made it illegal to for workers to file compensation claims using false identification. In the 14 years since, at least 130 injured workers were arrested under the law. At least one in four of those workers was detained by ICE or deported. "State fraud investigators have arrested injured workers at doctor's appointments and at depositions in their workers' comp cases," reads the report. "Some were taken into custody with their arms still in slings."
The report also points out that the Florida model could be a preview of widespread things to come under the Trump administration. If this is true, then the labor movement could end up taking a closer look at Tom Cat Bakery in Queens, where a Homeland Security inquiry and promise of subsequent firings sparked radical protests. Employers who openly collude with Trump's deportation machine might soon be targets of the same resistance.
Last month, the Treasury Department announced plans to wind down the myRA program, an Obama-era initiative designed to help low- and middle-income earners start a retirement account. According to the July 28 press release, the Treasury could not justify the expense the three-year-old program represented to taxpayers, given the slow uptake of the program among its target demographic: the 55 million Americans who lack access to a workplace retirement plan.
The argument against myRA's expense is hard to swallow, since the next item on President Donald Trump's agenda is a tax reform plan that could cost as much as $7 trillion over the next decade. The myRA program would be 0.001 percent of the cost. The claim that enrollment has been unenthusiastic isn't much easier to stomach, since the program was so new. Publicity efforts, such as partnerships with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs and promotions through government websites and TurboTax, have not yet been executed.
In reality, it was a deeply practical, badly needed program. I spent this past tax season working with United Way of King County to expand the savings options available to low-income taxpayers in Seattle. Tax time is one of the only times a year that saving is a real possibility for low-income earners -- their tax refunds are often the largest lump-sum payment they receive all year. Asking clients a question as simple as, "Are you considering saving a portion of your refund today?" was enough to spark a meaningful conversation about budgeting, savings, and overall financial stability. Tax clients had the option of splitting their refund into a savings account, savings bond, or myRA, which was piloted at United Way's tax sites for the first time this season.
For middle- and upper-income earners, retirement programs are an assumed benefit.
myRA was a great fit for clients who were new to saving. The accounts had no minimum balance required, no fees, and no risk of losing money. Account holders could withdraw contributions in case of an emergency, and had the option to automatically contribute from their paycheck. And since almost 1 in 6 King County households are underbanked or unbanked, myRA's accessibility without a formal relationship with a bank or other financial institution is a major asset. Of course, myRA was not perfect: It was hard to access without a Social Security number, and it counted against people enrolled in other safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps (SNAP) in states with public assistance asset limits.
Imperfections aside, myRA provided a straightforward and flexible savings platform unlike any other. For middle- and upper-income earners, primarily white collar workers, retirement programs are an assumed benefit. There is no comparable alternative for workers whose employers don't offer such benefits. And with the increasing necessity of "side hustles" in the gig economy, many workers don't even have an employer to fill that role. Five states are moving forward with state-sponsored retirement plans called "Secure Choice," which provides some hope, despite congressional efforts to block them.
After I left Seattle, I worked with a think tank in Washington, DC. I passed by the Treasury building on my way to the office every morning, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on the thousands of taxpayers all the way across the country in the "other" Washington.
The label "taxpayer" is one Americans on both sides of the country (and the states in between) wear with honor, regardless of their political ideology. The structure of our tax code, the loopholes and deductions we permit, and whether or not we feel our tax burden is fair should be reflective of our values. If we value financial stability, for ourselves and our neighbors, we need to support programs like myRA. Without it, there aren't many safe and accessible retirement savings options for lower-income workers. Innovative programs that could level the playing field deserve a chance to prove that they work, instead of being shut down.
This article was published by TalkPoverty.org
Scientific studies have long warned that anthropogenic climate disruption and the rise in temperatures it causes in the atmosphere and in the oceans will result in intensified flooding, winds and storm surges. The record-setting flooding across much of south Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey is the latest proof.
Residents navigate a flooded street that has been inundated with water from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)
My mother and father live just north of Houston. Here is the rather cryptic text message my mother, sent me late Sunday night:
Lost power. Got generator running, fridge on, light, running small AC in morning. Tired. Staying upstairs to escape generator noise.
Trees down. Wind up. Waiting for daylight to use chainsaws. Front entrance flooded.
We are okay. Tired.
Tropical Storm Harvey, which made landfall near Corpus Christi last Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, has stalled over south-central Texas and has been dumping record levels of rain on this population-dense area. The area flooded in Texas, as of Sunday, was, staggeringly, the size of Lake Michigan. At the time of this writing, 450,000 Texans were expected to seek disaster aid.
Unfortunately for the people of south Texas, Holthaus was spot on. More than 30 inches of rain have fallen, with an additional 15-25 inches expected in the coming days.
At least five people have died from the storm, and that number is expected to rise. More than 150 major roads in Houston alone are now rivers.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the US, with 6.8 million people in its metro area, and is the petrochemical and refinery hub of the country. It is anyone's guess how long it will take the city to rebuild and recover.
What made Harvey so brutal? Scientific studies have shown for quite some time that Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) amplifies the impacts of hurricanes by causing them to have larger storm surges, higher wind speeds and greater rainfall amounts. All of these are driven by the amount of heat in the oceans.
According to a study by Ars Technica, this past winter, for the first time on record, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73°F. These conditions set the stage for what we are witnessing now: Warming waters intensify the strength and impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes, as previous studies have shown. Additionally, the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico this summer have been exceedingly warm, creating the prime conditions for a storm like Harvey. ACD is amping up hurricanes.
Now, Harvey will be another name added to the list of other deadly ACD-amplified hurricanes, like Katrina, Ike and Sandy, which have caused record-setting levels of devastation in the US.
"Fuel for the Storm"
In more ways than one, Harvey has been unprecedented, and that is due to ACD's impacts on the conditions for the storm.
Sea-surface temperatures near Texas were between 2.7° and 7.2°F above average, making them some of the warmest ocean temperatures on Earth. This caused Harvey to ramp up from a tropical depression to a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane in merely two days' time.
"This is the main fuel for the storm," Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Atlantic. "Although these storms occur naturally, the storm is apt to be more intense, maybe a bit bigger, longer-lasting, and with much heavier rainfalls [because of that ocean heat]."
Trenberth also told The Atlantic, "The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm. It may have been a strong storm, and it may have caused a lot of problems anyway -- but [human-caused climate change] amplifies the damage considerably."
Trenberth is the author of a 2011 study titled, "Changes in precipitation with climate change," which shows how the water-holding capacity of air increases 7 percent for every 1°C warming, which naturally leads to an increase in the atmosphere's ability to hold water, and sets the conditions for epic rain events like Texas is experiencing today.
"Epic and Catastrophic Flooding"
Late Sunday the National Weather Service announced "epic and catastrophic flooding" had occurred in and around Houston and Galveston, and that the flooding could worsen with additional expected rainfall.
In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison was the worst rainstorm to strike a city in the US in modern history. It caused a deluge in Houston, which left 30,000 homeless, killed 23 in Texas as a whole, and caused severe damage to hospitals and other buildings in downtown Houston.
Harvey may well exceed these records, if rainfall continues as predicted.
Scientists are already warning that the storm is going to cause the most devastating flooding the city has ever seen.
"The economic impact should be greater than any other flood event we've ever experienced," Sam Brody, a scientist at Texas A&M University in Galveston who specializes in natural hazards mitigation, told the Texas Tribune. "And it's going to take years for these residential communities to recover."
Harvey is unique in another way as well. According to Stephanie Zick, who is studying tropical cyclones at Virginia Tech University, Harvey is the only storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico to have ever intensified in the 12 hours prior to making landfall.
Given that warming of both the atmosphere and oceans is only going to continue to escalate, a text I received Sunday from a good friend of mine who lives near downtown Houston captured what Harvey portends:
It will take years to recover.
We are all rescuing each other.
Odd to think that our future can be summed up like that.
Michael Brennan's nomination was one of the latest in Trump's spree to fill as many open judicial seats as quickly as possible with young judges who fit a far-right, conservative mold. Many of these are lifetime appointments. When Trump entered office, he inherited over 100 judicial vacancies.
(Photo: Bill Oxford / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Earlier this month, Donald Trump chose Michael Brennan to fill an open seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In doing so, he broke with a 38-year-old Wisconsin tradition.
For decades, when the 7th Circuit seat meant for a Wisconsin judge opened up, a bipartisan state commission voted on a jointly agreed-upon list of judicial nominees for the president to consider. The Wisconsinites gathered to do the same this year, but weren't able to decide on a nominee for a seat that has been vacant for eight years, the result of Republican refusal to vote on Obama's nominee for the seat.
So Trump went ahead and selected Brennan, a former Milwaukee County judge who is a close ally of Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker. In 2011, while serving on a committee to help Walker select state-level judges, Brennan co-authored an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supporting Republican efforts to block Obama's nominee to the 7th Circuit Court -- a nominee who would have sat in the very seat for which Trump has nominated Brennan.
Brennan's nomination was one of the latest in Trump's spree to fill as many open judicial seats as quickly as possible with young judges who fit a far-right, conservative mold. Many of these are lifetime appointments.
When Trump entered office, he inherited over 100 judicial vacancies. The number of judicial vacancies grew during the Obama administration, when Senate Republicans refused to confirm many of Obama's nominees to the seats Trump is now filling. When Obama entered office, there were 54 judicial vacancies. President Trump now has the opportunity to fill over 130.
Those who closely watch the courts -- legal reporters, scholars left and right, and US senators -- agree: Trump's efforts to transform the federal judiciary may be the most enduring accomplishment of his presidency.
"This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration," Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told Business Insider's Allan Smith. "They will quickly be able to put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, will have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades." Trump has the power, Coons said, to bring about "a wholesale change among the federal judiciary."
After Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court, recently ousted Heritage Foundation president and former US Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) wrote that "President Trump should be applauded for carrying through on his promise to appoint good judges from this list, and conservatives hope he continues to use the list for any future appointments." The list DeMint was referring to was one Trump released detailing his potential Supreme Court nominees, which Trump explicitly acknowledged was put together by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.
Playing the Long Game
In the seven months since he took office, Trump has nominated 37 judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Five have been confirmed. For comparison, by this point in Obama's term, only Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had been confirmed. In the first full year of the Obama presidency, the Senate confirmed just three of Obama's nominees for the federal court of appeals -- fewer than the number of Trump appointees confirmed in his first six months.
Trump's brazen effort to reshape the judiciary by nominating judges who are ideological and outspoken about their beliefs, particularly on social issues, is a strategy some conservatives have advocated for decades -- and one Trump embraced during the election. "If you really like Donald Trump, that's great, but if you don't, you have to vote for me anyway. You know why? Supreme Court judges, Supreme Court judges," Trump said at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in July 2016.
Trump was, in fact, taking aim at the judiciary as early as April 2016, when, during a television town hall, he said that there should be "some form of punishment" for women who get abortions if the procedure is outlawed. By the end of that week, he said, "The laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way." His spokesperson, Hope Hicks, attempted to clarify, telling reporters that Trump would "change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn." Today, it seems Trump plans to make good on that promise.
Senators Get on Board
The fear of an ideologically motivated judiciary is not new. The extent to which our judges are truly apolitical was a question being debated long before Trump entered office. And yet, the politicization of the judiciary is not an on-or-off switch. Trump's many nominees, and the basis by which he is picking them, will push the American judiciary firmly in one direction for decades to come, in a manner that will affect every individual who enters one of his chosen judges' courtrooms, reshaping the justice system in the process.
Ron Klain, a lawyer who advised the Obama administration on Merrick Garland's unsuccessful confirmation process, recently calculated that, given the rate the administration is currently confirming judges, one-eighth of all cases filed in federal court will be heard by a judge Trump appointed by the end of 2018.
Like much of the Trump administration's successes, the judicial nomination process, high-speed and precarious as it is, is ultimately effective because Republican senators support Trump's nominees, despite spoken hesitation.
For instance, during his nomination hearings, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) found 52-year-old judicial nominee John Bush problematic. "I've read your blog. I'm not impressed," Kennedy told Bush. Bush has "a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments," writing under a pseudonym on his wife's blog, Elephants in the Bush. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took him to task for linking to "phony stories from paranoid right-wing internet corners," including WorldNetDaily, a fake news website that promoted the Birther Lie, among other conspiracy theories.
But Kennedy voted in favor of Bush's confirmation anyway -- as did every other Republican senator (except the absent John McCain) -- later releasing a statement: "His academic credentials are impressive, and after talking to people who know Mr. Bush better than I do, I believe he will be an impartial, just-call-the-balls-and-strikes judge."
Another Trump nominee, 37-year-old Damien Schiff, is a member of the Federalist Society and works at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which advocates for "private property rights, individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government and a balanced approach to environmental protection." As a judge on the US Court of Financial Claims, Schiff would oversee environmental and agency lawsuits. In the past, he's accused the Environmental Protection Agency of treating Americans "as if they were just slaves" and recommended selling Yosemite National Park to the Walt Disney Company because they'd "do a damn better job, I think."
He also moonlights as a blogger. In one post, he called Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy a "judicial prostitute" for "'selling' his vote as it were to four other Justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence."
At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports that during Schiff's nomination hearing,
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse observed that "if President Obama had sent in a nominee who had called Justice Kennedy a 'judicial prostitute,' the other side of this dais would have its hair on fire." Whitehouse didn't even bother to question the lawyer/blogger, yielding his time with the observation that "this just isn't normal."
Schiff passed the committee 11-9 on a straight party-line vote. His nomination will be voted on by the full Senate later this year. Democrats won't be able to filibuster since Sen. Harry Reid, in retaliation for partisan gridlock during the Obama years, moved to limit the use of the filibuster for lower-court judicial nominees in 2013.
"Once you put a bad judge on the federal bench, it hurts not just the liberal and progressive agenda -- it hurts everybody who comes into their courtroom," said Nan Aron, the founder and president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive organization that follows the judiciary.
North Carolina and South Carolina have been hotbeds of local community resistance to federal proposals to open the Southeast's Atlantic Coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling.
Since 2014, when the latest push to open the Atlantic to drilling got underway in earnest, almost 30 communities along North Carolina's coast and more than 20 along South Carolina's have passed resolutions or otherwise taken stances against seismic testing for offshore oil and gas reserves and/or offshore drilling. While the Obama administration canceled plans to include the Atlantic in the latest five-year offshore drilling plan, the Trump administration is revisiting that decision.
Since then, responding to the strong grassroots opposition in their states, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) have come out against seismic testing and drilling off their coasts. Federal law governing offshore oil and gas development gives special consideration to a governor's position.
But members of their states' congressional delegations are co-sponsoring a bill that would do an end run around the will of their governors and coastal communities.
US Reps. David Rouzer, a Republican who represents coastal North Carolina's 7th Congressional District, and Jeff Duncan, a Republican who represents inland South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, have signed on to the Streamlining Environmental Approvals (SEA) Act of 2017 (HR 3133). The measure would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) to weaken standards for issuing what are known as "Incidental Harassment Authorizations" -- permits for activities that have the potential to injure dolphins and whales or disrupt their behavioral patterns.
Such permits are needed by companies to carry out offshore seismic testing, which involves the intensive use of extremely loud airguns that can injure marine life and harm fisheries. The blasts take place every 10 seconds or so around the clock for months on and and can approach sound levels as loud as 250 decibels, damaging marine mammals' hearing and interfering with breeding and communication.
In 2015, 75 leading marine scientists wrote a letter calling on then-President Obama to reject seismic testing in the Atlantic over concerns about its harm to ocean life. Last year, 28 marine biologists raised specific concerns about its effects on the North Atlantic right whale, among the planet's most endangered marine mammals.
HR 3133 was introduced in late June by Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican. Besides Duncan, the other original co-sponsors, all Republicans, were Jody Hice of Georgia and three other Louisiana lawmakers: Ralph Lee Abraham, Garret Graves and Clay Higgins. Rouzer signed on later, on July 20.
The conservation group Oceana has documented how HR 3133 reflects changes to the MMPA that have been sought by the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), the trade association for companies that carry out oil and gas exploration using seismic airgun blasting and other technologies.
For example, last October the IAGC handed out a fact sheet at a congressional hearing calling for the same changes made by HR 3133. IAGC President Nikki C. Martin also discussed the changes in testimony delivered last month to the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. HR 3133 sponsor Johnson submitted questions for the hearing record that point to IAGC's involvement in drafting the bill.
"This is especially important as similar efforts to undermine the MMPA unfold in the White House," said Oceana spokesperson Dustin Cranor.
Those efforts include President Trump's executive order implementing what he calls an "America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," which specifically addresses promoting seismic surveys and expediting incidental harassment authorizations, as well as a proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to streamline the same section of the MMPA that would be amended by HR 3133.
When Johnson introduced the SEA Act in June, the IAGC issued a statement praising the move, saying it would "provide a much-needed common-sense approach" to ensure that offshore energy exploration "can move forward."
While the seismic testing industry is not a major player when it comes to spending to influence Congress, the oil and gas industry that it works for is -- and Rouzer and Duncan are both beneficiaries of its largesse.
The oil and gas industry is among the top industry contributors to Rouzer's campaign and leadership committee, having contributed over $85,000 since he first ran for Congress in 2011. It's also the top industry contributor to Duncan's campaign and leadership committee, donating $165,000 since 2009, and it's his top industry contributor in this current election cycle.
Neither Rouzer's nor Duncan's office responded to a request for comment.